Tara Brown with her daughter Aria.
Tara Brown with her daughter Aria.

Tara Brown’s remarkable final chapter

TARA Brown will return to Southport's Owen Park touch field on Sunday.

That is, her spirit will be there, along with her family and her friends as they spill across the fields when the Touch of Love tournament gets underway about 8am.

Tara Brown playing touch football.
Tara Brown playing touch football.

Tara was 24 when her ex-partner Lionel Patea ran her off the road at nearby Molendinar in 2015. He bashed her as she lay trapped in the wreckage of the car, and she died in hospital a day later.

But Tara's story did not stall in tragedy there. Her parents, Natalie Hinton and Jonny Gardner, stood strong, along with welfare groups and the LNP's Ros Bates. The State Government ultimately undertook unprecedented domestic violence reform.

Owen Park, silent in the background, played its role too. After Tara died, her teammates formed a circle on Field One, standing under floodlights in the pouring rain.

Aria, aged four, with Tara Brown’s mother Natalie Hinton and stepfather Jonny Gardner at the Tara Brown Foundation touch football fundraiser at Coomera. Photo: Regi Varghese.
Aria, aged four, with Tara Brown’s mother Natalie Hinton and stepfather Jonny Gardner at the Tara Brown Foundation touch football fundraiser at Coomera. Photo: Regi Varghese.

Her teammates from 2Fresh & Sharp and Dannielle Malloy worked fast to organise a touch football carnival, which has grown to become Tara's foundation Touch of Love fundraiser.

"The effort to get through the red tape and throw that together in such a short space of time was mind blowing," Mr Gardner says of the first carnival. More than $27,000 was raised for Tara's young daughter Aria.

Tara's parents, with the charity up and running, had their sights on building a safe house, because Tara had left one that she felt was not suitable for a child, which had placed her at risk.

"But we realised that these DV support groups were already doing a great job. They just need more money," Mr Gardner says.

More than 50 teams will be there this Sunday playing 150 games. A DJ will be spinning songs and there will be all-day raffles, food trucks and jumping castles - a grand final day atmosphere.

"Our foundation loves this time of year because it is a day the touch community comes together for Tara, and is a day full of happy positive people, smiling faces everywhere, and people playing hard out for Tara and DV awareness," Mr Gardner says.

Tara Brown's former touch football team members who organised the first fundraising event for Tara's then three-year-old daughter Aria. Photo of Kendyl Terangi and William Morunga (kneeling at centre) with (L-R) Hunter Terangi, Sammy-Jo Curtis, Dave Maher, Danielle Molloy, Verdon Bartlett, Paige Markey, Kapi-Rogue Hughes, Tyson Molloy. Pic by Richard Gosling.
Tara Brown's former touch football team members who organised the first fundraising event for Tara's then three-year-old daughter Aria. Photo of Kendyl Terangi and William Morunga (kneeling at centre) with (L-R) Hunter Terangi, Sammy-Jo Curtis, Dave Maher, Danielle Molloy, Verdon Bartlett, Paige Markey, Kapi-Rogue Hughes, Tyson Molloy. Pic by Richard Gosling.

For the first time, the event this year moves from Coomera to Owen Park after Gold Coast Junior Touch general manager Mitch Felsman reached out to help organisers.

Drive into Mick Veivers Way and look around. To the right the State Emergency Services, packed with volunteers when the Coast faces disaster. To the left the Sporting Hall of Fame, where Gold Coast Recreation and Sport Inc often brings across disabled children.

Of a winter's night, trumpet sounds float through the cold air as the Gold Coast Brass Band warms up next door, with the sound heard in the gymnastics hall across the bitumen, and over at the Southport Tigers Rugby League where some parents sneak a cold ale while watching their kids train outside.

Hundreds of balloons are released at a charity event for Tara Brown.
Hundreds of balloons are released at a charity event for Tara Brown.

The former showgrounds site is home to the Embroiderers Guild, the Naval Brigade and the Schizophrenia Fellowship. The fields, even down by the creek at the back, are used by the Gold Coast Touch Association.

Only last year touch volunteers were asking about a Bulletin story that reported this prime site, within jogging distance of two light rail stations, was being considered for a 15,000-seat boutique stadium.

Veteran Southport councillor Dawn Crichlow will retire in March next year. She hands out grand final medals every season. Will her councillor successor vow to do the same?

Tara Brown represented her state in touch footy.

Owen Park would have been her escape, make her smile - even on her toughest of days - as she threw a long cut-out pass while playing at night.

Her daughter Aria, now seven, will play for the first time in the tournament on Sunday.

This is sacred Southport community ground.